|PHOTO BY CECILIE HARRIS|
Thursday, May 23, 2013
It’s come to my attention that certain YA books are flaunting female main characters who are all-around better than their love interests. Now, before I go on and on about kick-ass girls and the boys who love them, I’d like to preface this by stating the following:
Just because the two boys mentioned here are outmatched in every way by their girlfriends doesn’t mean boys in general are not also all-around awesome. In fact, men can do anything women do. (Except the whole miracle of life thing. No big.)
Right, so the boys. We have Vane in Shannon Messenger’s Let the Sky Fall and Callum in Reboot by Amy Tintera. Neither are a match for the girls they meet—one who can control the elements and another who’s the most dangerous soldier in the land.
But here’s the thing: THEY ARE SO LOVEABLE.*
Vane has just met a girl who’s lived in his dreams since he was a boy, has been told that he’s an important player in a supernatural war, and has been ordered to learn to control his ability in less than a week—or else die.
He tries. He fails. He tries harder. He can’t keep up with Audra.
And yet it’s endearing. Vane’s sweet and imperfect, and it doesn’t make him less of a guy. In fact, his strength may be different than Audra’s physical power, but it’s no less important.
The same goes for Callum in Reboot. In a world where those who spend the most time dead before rebooting are the least human, Callum is a lowly 22. Wren, on the other hand, was dead 178 minutes before she woke up—the most deadly Reboot out there.
When Wren trains Callum, he’s out of his league. She could snap his neck with the flick of his wrist and he can’t even punch her. But Callum doesn’t come across as a pathetic excuse for a boy. He’s real and adorable and totally humanizes Wren. And while he’s no physical match for Wren, he’s in no way weak. After all, he’s the only lowly Reboot willing to approach scary number 178—and that takes courage Callum shows again and again throughout the book.
Reading both books, I couldn’t help but think of girls in novels who rely on physically stronger guys to get the job done. I don’t think too-little brawn or too many emotions makes for a weak female character.
No, I think it’s about more than that. Strong female characters can be physically weak but emotionally strong, like Callum and Vane. Consider Emma in Erin Boman’s Taken. She’s no physical match for Bree, who has trained as a fighter since childhood, yet she’s still a Strong Female Character. She’s took a stand against her village’s mating plans and faced possible death when she followed Gray over the wall (of her own accord, I should point out).
I think reading about boys who are physically weaker than their girlfriends is a nice reminder that Strong Female Characters—no, strong characters of both genders—are more than teens who can kill a man in under ten seconds.
Can you think of other books in which the boy is physically weaker than the girl? And do you think it makes them the equivalent of the “weak female character” we so often hear about?
*See also: Peeta Mellark
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Oh guys, are you ever going to love me. I have such a great book for you today—The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. First, the blurb:
Told entirely through letters, diary entries, emails, and other writing, Moriarty’s novel introduces us to Emily, Lydia, and Cassie—all students at Ashbury High—who begin writing to their Brookfield High counterparts through the schools’ organized pen pal project. Readers learn quickly that each girl has her own writing style and that at two of the Brookfield boys (Seb and Charlie) seem to be smitten with Lydia and Emily. The only trouble is Cassie’s pen pal, Matthew, a shady character who first sends her short, threatening letters and then becomes strangely sweet toward her. Nobody can figure out why Cassie keeps writing to him, but after she has a crushing meet-up with Matthew, Cassie discovers—with the help of her friends and the Brookfield guys—that he hasn’t been honest about his identity. All could be ended there, but when Charlie helps take revenge and Brookfield High gets mysteriously vandalized, the group comes together to deliver justice and save the endangered pen pal project.
I wasn’t so certain this would work. But if I have a single motto I have a million, and one happens to be: Always trust an Aussie.*
Still, I didn’t know how Jaclyn Moriarty would tell not one but three stories using nothing but letters, e-mails, and journal entries. But that’s because I didn’t know what a skillful storyteller Moriarty is. I stand corrected. This book rocked.
It’s not just that the characters were so fully developed I’m not entirely sure Emily, Lydia, and Cassie aren’t real Australian girls. Or that the story is equal parts touching and laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s the voice.
Or, I should say, voices. Plural.
Here’s the thing: Moriarty doesn’t just nail teen speak. And she doesn’t just write in an overall amazing voice. No, she gives each of the three girls and three boys such incredibly different voices that I’d believe you if you told me a different writer penned each.
One of my favorite things about this book is the way Moriarty wrote Emily, who gives terrible advice and constantly mistakes one word for another. My favorite instance of the latter:
“Also, I have seen on TV that you can get head transplants and it seems to me that it is a tragedy if you are bald and you don’t get a head transplant. My dad agreed with me heartily, and with much joy, when I pointed out that Lydia’s dad should get a head transplant.”
But Moriarty doesn’t shove it in our face, reminding us constantly through other characters that Emily has the tendency to misinterpret phrases. It isn’t even until halfway through that Emily’s pen pal questions her about it.
There is so much more to love about this book than I have room to say. And, truthfully, I’d end up copying the whole book for you here because it’s pretty much all funny and quotable.
Oh, and if you enjoy this one, there are a few others in Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield series, all of which have a place on my TBR list right now.
Here’s what the other Bookanistas are reading today:
Lenore Appelhans is blown away by Reboot by Amy Tintera
Carrie Harris adores Beyond Dinocalypse by Chuck Wendig—with giveaway!
Corrine Jackson is stunned by Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Nikki Katz wonders at The Grave Winner by Lindsey Loucks
Gretchen McNeil talks Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green
Elana Johson admires Insomnia by Jenn Johannson
Katy Upperman fawns over Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Rebecca Behrens is wowed by The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
I’m in the mood for another hilarious YA book. Any recommendations?
* That is, when they write YA. I can’t be held responsible if you happen upon one who convinces you to stuff your arm in the mouth of a crocodile.
Monday, May 13, 2013
You ever read one of those Men’s Health articles that tells you to “Eat This, Not That,” in which “this” is terribly unhealthy and “that” is only moderately less healthy? This is not that sort of list.
A. There is no food.
B. Unless we’re talking about brain food.
C. In that case, there is a lot of food.
D. And when it comes to brain food, more is better.
I haven’t read all of these, so I’m not making a statement about their greatness—or lack of it, as the case may be. Plus, some haven’t released yet. So, essentially, I’m enticing you without immediate gratification. The thought alone makes me feel wonderfully evil.
If you like the plot of one of these books, you might want to check out the second. (Besides, it can be interesting to see how two authors with the same idea wrote two very different books.) So, here we go. Just click on a cover or title link to read the Goodreads blurb:
Girl’s life can go in one of two ways, and we get the story of each path, leading up to her big decision.
Girl goes on teen cooking reality show, falls for hot guy
Dying girl tries to live life to the fullest. Uncontrollable crying (ours) ensues.
Boy is haunted by the ghost of a former Queen Bee
A Hangover-esque story in which a teen has to remember what happened last night
Teens participate in reality show truth or dare game
Demon is sent to high school to collect an important soul, is faced with angelic opposition,
and falls in love with said Very Important Girl
and falls in love with said Very Important Girl
Girl steals her best friend’s boyfriend
Exes are forced to road trip with one another
Which books am I missing?